Base closings - let the secretary decide Regarding "Back to basics: base closings" (June 3): There are other avenues if this president and defense secretary are serious.

We continue to see Secretary of Defense William Cohen and President Clinton call for further rounds of base closing under the last Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC). The call is based on the previous four rounds between 1988 and 1995 and the projected savings from closing and realigning military bases across the country. As you can see, I said "projected savings."

Currently there are no official savings from those four previous rounds. Based on Department of Defense data, the General Accounting Office, an arm of Congress, cannot support all the savings being touted by the administration.

Current law allows the secretaries of each of the armed-services branches, and the secretary of defense, to close any military installation they feel is not needed. Each must make up a list and send it forward to Congress, or notify Congress of the bases they wish to close.

This procedure is not under BRAC, but it is law. The law doesn't state you need a commission to make your decision, nor the president's approval, nor an up or down vote from the full Congress. What it means is that you, as secretary of defense, have to do your job, take the monkey off others' backs, and make the hard decisions.

No one over the past 20 years has done this, at least not since the closure of military bases in the 1970s. No commission had to make those decisions, and no one had to worry over the decision made by five commissioners or their staff.

If there is unneeded infrastructure that the Defense Department wishes to close, then let Secretary Cohen make his list and submit it to Congress. He needs to stop blaming everyone else and make the decisions; it's his job and, therefore, his responsibility. He wanted the job. Now he should do the job.

Barry K. Adams, Jacksonville, Fla. President Jacksonville Naval Air Station Assn.

Don't impose religion Bob Jacobson could not be more correct in his opinion article about the discomfort that plagues non-Christians when it is assumed that they are Christian ("When a blessing isn't," June 4). Mr. Jacobson notes that Jews may find it "annoying or insulting" to have Christianity imposed on them through being blessed, and that many Jewish children feel out of place when Christian holidays are celebrated in schools.

I could not agree more. The same argument supports the separation of church and state - for example school prayer and Christmas parties. Think of how uncomfortable it must be for non-Christian children to sit in a group of their peers as they pray to a god in which they do not believe, or to see public officials sponsoring Christian prayers.

But is the solution to broaden the practices to include Jews and Moslems?

No. This would still exclude the people who are Hindu, Buddhist, Wiccan, or atheist. No act of prayer can include everyone, since many religious theologies are mutually exclusive to each other. In this way, mixing state and church can cause much more harm than good.

David Silverman, Holmdel, N.J. State director American Atheists Inc.

Amato opera correction I sang at the Amato Opera Theatre for many years. The article about the Amatos is most welcome! ("Hidden treasure," June 8.) However, there is one small error - the Amatos met when they were playing apache dancers, not Apache Indians!

Maryanne Filanowski, New York

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